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Archive for February, 2010

I will tell you to study abroad at Deakin for this lone reason, beach orientation. If there has ever been a better idea than beach orientation for new students, I have never been privy to such idea. Putting 140 international students in the small town of Lorne means one thing, rich adventures.

The trip starts with a two-hour bus trip from Melbourne to Lorne. Sit on the left side of the bus. Always sit on the left side of the bus. Once we arrived, we had our brief orientation. After a few hours of powerpoint slides, I gathered this, “Work hard, play hard, meet people, and swim between the flags.”

Hanging at the hostel

Our first day there, we had a fair amount of free time. The only real scheduled event was dinner. What do you get when you combine decks, students, warm weather, and nothing to do? Many cheers and drinks to good health. After dinner, the entire group headed over to Cuda Bar, quadrupling its attendance. The night was grand.

Here is a story of Australian hospitality at its finest: While at the only bar in Lorne that stays open past 10pm, a sudden event changed the lives of a hundred international students. At first, it started with a few murmurs of free drinks at the bar. Then there was talk about some man named Simon. Minutes later, everyone in the bar had libations in hand without giving more than a tip.

Well, a millionaire satellite developer was just passing through Lorne and wanted to make sure all of these international students had a night they would not soon forget. So, why not put down a $5,000 bar tab? (That soon ran out, so without delay, he put another $1,000 down). Thank you Simon. I will remember, however, some will only remember the night through the tales of others.

Next up Days 2 & 3

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Burwood Student Living

Living accommodations are far different here in Australia. Most students do not travel far and wide to go to school. In fact, the students are mostly local and live at home. That changes on-campus housing completely. There are only two “dorms” on Deakin. One is for year one students and the other is for international students. If you cannot get in to the international dorm, Ihouse, or figure dorms are a bit lame, securing a house is independent.

Don’t fret, there is Burwood Student Living. A group of ten houses, five for international students and five for other students, that make up Camp Deakin. The majority of the houses are located within walking distance of each other. Each house sleeps 4-7 students from across the world. Each house has cute name like the Classical house or Sunset house. I live in the Retro house. And it is the best.

I chose the Retro house because I wanted to live with as many roomies as possible. I find roommates to be hilarious and it is great way to make life-long friends from all over. In the house we have Niru from Sri Lanka (but raised in France, “Parle vu frances?”), Amanda from Florida, Nicole from Canada, Ashley from Oregon, Aleks from Norway, and Laura from Kansas. In only a few short days we have become a family.

I hate to make the comparison, but we have been aptly named Real World Retro House. Actually, I don’t hate to make the comparison at all, I had to say I hate it so I could feel less guilty about my love for trash reality tv.

I realize choosing to live in a house with a bunch of strangers can be a gamble. High risk, high reward, I know the gig. There will be rich dinners at Sofia’s, where little kids sitting in the near vicinity learn a whole new vocabulary, and there will also be good old-fashioned drama. However, I feel living with this group of people will make my time at Deakin that much more rewarding.

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5 Reasons Why…

You should ride the train more often:

1. I think it is considered “going green.”

2. If no one sits next to you, you can almost curl up in the fetal position for a light nap.

3. See the countryside of course!

4. Planes are so uppity.

5. Train passengers are far more social, and can be a great way to hear more about the local flavour.

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Taking the train is way cooler than flying. It is also a great way to see the country. However, taking a train takes much longer (11 hours from Sydney to Melbourne). Luckily, taking the night train is a great way to see about two hours of the countryside while sleeping the rest.

I would NOT recommend taking the train if you have a hard time sleeping on trains, planes, or automobiles

That said, I truly did enjoy the train ride. The ride was quiet and somewhat relaxing. In the morning, I was able to sip an overpriced coffee while taking in the scenery. Getting away from the coast in Australia means a lot less green. In fact, most of what I saw was rather desolate. And, like any other rural setting, one must get from point A to point B in some sort of all terrain vehicle. Without any further delay, I give you the Australian truck.

The Ute

Once I arrived to the train station (Southern Cross Station, in the heart of the city), I, again, had no predetermined plans of how to get to my house. I believe, however frustrating it may seem at the time, this is the best way to get acquainted with a city. Nevertheless, I was lost and bit overwhelmed.

Southern Cross Station

My first impression of Melbourne was, quite frankly, not a good one. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, the overcast day, or the fact that I wasn’t too sure if I was on the right tram. (Don’t fret, my attitude quickly changed ten fold once I moved in…)

Looking back, I can safely say that maybe some parts of the trip could have been planned a tad bit better to make for less of a headache. Parts like writing down the address to my house, or having the phone number of my landlord. Alas, all part of the adventure, right?

Finally, I made it to my house. It is true what they say about Aussie hospitality. If you have a question, be prepared for a story. Nearly every person I bumped in to (literally) was more than happy to help me get home.

Next up, meeting the roomies and getting settled.

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Sydney – Day 3

The start of day 3 in Sydney was a bit on the average side. I walked around for miles again. I went to scenic overlooks and pondered life’s questions. Why is there crime in this world? How did Miley Cyrus become so famous? Why can’t I be a pop super idol? Why does the air conditioning in the hostel turn off when the light is turned off? Do I really want to spend another night in the hostel?

I could only come up with the answer to the last question, and that answer was no. I was ready to head down to Melbourne (pronounced almost like Mel-bin) I was ready to sleep in my own bed, ready for my own room.

So I booked my train ticket to leave at 8:45pm. With a few hours to kill, I went back to the Darling Harbour. Looking as majestic as the day before, I decided to take a gander from the other side.

From there, I saw something that caught my eye, The World’s Largest IMAX!!! I was in a bit of a pickle, however. Ask any traveler if seeing a movie while traveling is a good thing to do. The response will be unfailing, laughter followed by condescending smugness. Yet the tourist in me had a sudden feeling that I had to see Avatar in 3D. Nice marketing Sydney.

Avatar 3D is epic, but also close to seven hours long. With my train departure rapidly approaching, I was forced to leave the movie 15 minutes early and sprint to the station. Please do not tell me how it ends, thank you. I was able to sneak on board just as the train made its final call. With my stomach full of mediocre pad thai and my eyes weary from too much 3D, I reclined my seat to an 85 degree angle and shut my eyes with dreams of Melbourne in my head.

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Sydney – Day 2

Bondi Beach

Day 2 started feeling refreshed after a pleasant sleep with no air conditioning and six snoring men (hostel living at its finest). Regardless, my excitement could not be contained. I was going to the beach.

I began to feel more comfortable in the city, taking buses, not tipping at restaurants (no one does, they get paid over $20 an hour!), pretending like I was going the right way even if I wasn’t, remembering that some coins are worth $2 and shouldn’t be thrown in fountains, winking at the lovely Aussie ladies, them laughing at my awkward sunburn. Yes, a real local.

“Hello sir, may I purchase one of your bus fares for Bus 330 to Bondi Beach!!!!!! ”

Bondi Beach is stunning. It belongs somewhere in the Mediterranean.

This day I decided to apply SPF 30, the norm in Australia. This is perhaps the biggest culture shock for me. After years of going to VA beach with SPF 4 Ultra Dark Island Tanning Oil with Coconut and Buttermilk Extract, I found that rays in Oz are much more direct and piercing.

My one goal for my entire trip to Sydney was complete. I am a huge fan of catching the sun’s rays, especially in foreign lands. Another plus, the hit reality tv show Bondi Rescue was being filmed that day. Think Baywatch but far less exciting, the crew spent much of their day eating sandwiches.

Later in the day I was able to meet up with a friend of a friend who studied abroad in Sydney a few years ago (shot outs Joey Terp!). She was able to give me a pleasant driving tour of the city. Then we went back to the hostel to get ready for the night.

Pre-gaming in the common area was a blast. After a few very revealing games of “I have never” (“never have I ever” in the states) with strangers, I found out far too much information on who had done what and where. Hours later, it was time to hit the streets.

We partied that night at some of the “backpacker friendly” spots. The drinks were cheaper and the dress code was looser. My favorite (favourite) aspect of Australia so far is that people love to dance. No bumping and grinding like back in the US, just large masses of people doing their own two step. Dancing solo is already one of my top pastimes, so, I quickly adjusted to this style of living.

The dancing was intense and sweaty. The drinks, Toohey’s Pints, because Fosters is not Australian for beer, were bountiful and cheap (AUS $4 is about as cheap as it get for drinks). The night was a good intro in to Australian nightlife.



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Sydney – Day 1

I hopped off the plane at AUS and it was certainly not a Washington D.C. party. Whether I was being naïve, lazy, or some sort of combination with a hint of genius, I decided to do very little about my plans in Sydney. I would say to myself “live outside your comfort zone, it will be good for the experience.”

I immediately hated my decision.

No cell phone and no Internet?? I felt like a grounded teenager. More for the adventure I guess.

I took the train from the airport and landed in the heart of a monstrous city named Sydney. Lugging around a giant suitcase on cheap wheels with jeans on in 90 degree weather (32 degree Celsius of course) with no where to go is a rough way to start.

After meandering around for hours and going up and down the same street quite a few times, I found a hostel. I was able to lose the drama aka all of that baggage and change my clothes.

Putting shorts on does wonders for one’s overall mood.

The rest of the day I trekked around Sydney. There is something about having no phone, no one knowing where you are, and no plans that is entirely freeing. I began to really see the city.

Sydney is a gorgeous city built on rolling hills. It would be unfair to try and compare it to any other city. The architecture is superbly modern. Every place I went I became more enthralled with the city.

Train Station:

The Upper Harbour (I found the panorama feature on my camera so get used to it):

Even McDonalds is classed up:

Children’s Playground:

Concrete Jungle:

The streets hold hordes of people and hundreds of languages. I ate a falafel from Emrie’s Kebab and Pizza and tried a full Irish breakfast from Scruffy Murphy’s. The diversity rivals a UN lunch-in.

Jet lag made me tired and delirious. I had mid-day dreams of wrestling pigeons. As much as I wanted to go out that night, I went to sleep at 7pm.

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